SC asserts HCs’ power to protect from arrest
High courts are empowered to protect an accused from arrest for a certain period of time even if it rejects the anticipatory bail plea, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, while underscoring that bail provisions must be liberally construed by the courts to take into account myriad situations.
A three-judge bench, headed by chief justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana, cleared up the legal position, as it held in favour of a high court exercising such powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to “secure the ends of justice”.
In the wake of two orders by the Allahabad high court, granting 90 days to two accused to surrender, the top court was called upon to remove the ambiguity in law as to whether a high court was authorised to protect an accused from arrest for some time even though it did not grant pre-arrest bail.
The bench, which included justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, laid down that a high court could pass such protective orders under Section 482 of the CrPC, which recognised the HC’s inherent power to pass directions in the interest of justice.
Inherent powers under section 482 of the CrPC include the power to quash first information reports (FIRs), investigation, or any criminal proceedings, and to pass any directive to prevent abuse of the process of any court and miscarriage of justice, depending upon the facts of a case. “This provision (section 482) reflects the reality that no law or rule can possibly account for the complexities of life, and the infinite range of circumstances that may arise in the future,” noted the bench.
“Even when the court is not inclined to grant anticipatory bail to an accused, there may be circumstances where the high court is of the opinion that it is necessary to protect the person apprehending arrest for some time...,” it held.
At the same time, the bench also flagged that the discretionary power could not be exercised by the high courts “in an untrammelled manner”.
On the facts in the cases before it, the court noted that the accused in the first case was charged for causing the death of the petitioner’s daughter over dowry demands, whereas the accused in the second case was involved in brutally assaulting the brother and sons of the petitioner.
The bench said the HC order restraining police from arresting them for 90 days did not withstand legal scrutiny since there were no special reasons cited why they were entitled to this relief even after their pre-arrest bail pleas were rejected. “During the said duration (of 90 days), they can roam freely without being apprehensive of coercive action. We are thus of the view that the high court committed a grave error in passing such protection to the accused. Such a direction by the HC exceeds its judicial discretion and amounts to judicial largesse, which the courts do not possess,” said the bench, cancelling the protective orders passed on February 8.
The court gave liberty to the police to complete the investigations in accordance with the law.